Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Church, Control, and Children

We spent the weekend in Louisiana, where we "commute" to church.

Isn't it interesting that people are willing to commute for work or drive all over the place as work. (My own husband spends a huge amount of time on the road just driving around Houston and it's outer parts- and if you're from this area, then you know that it can take two hours to get from one side of "outer Houston" to the other, and that's with little to no traffic.) People are willing to move to different cities, states, and even countries for a job....

But the idea of doing so for church is shocking.

We attend two churches. Our "home church" is actually three hours away in my husband's hometown in Louisiana. It is the church we attended before moving back to Houston, the church that we ached to leave (and the only reason we would have stayed, had God not made it so clear that we were to move).

Since it is not always feasible for us to attend our "home church" (meaning, "main church"... services there are not actually held in a home), we also have a "secondary church" which is about a forty-five minute drive (when there is little or no traffic, and there usually isn't on Sundays). It took us several months to find this a church here in our area (and, technically, it isn't in "our area", but it is close enough!). The search for a church made us painfully aware of how God's word is often watered down to make it easier to swallow or spiced up to make it more entertaining or completely twisted by those who either simply misunderstand because the mystery has not been "unveiled" to them yet or because they deliberately choose to alter it.

I think God used those experiences to show us how Satan has really taken over. There were also some churches we attended that preached the gospel truth, but that God did not give us a "peace" about, meaning, we felt he was telling us to "keep on looking" even though the Spirit was definitely there.

We have made some wonderful friendships within our church here in Texas- ones that are just budding. Friday night, we had supper with one of the couples from our church here. They also have three children. It was so nice to fellowship with a like-minded family. Brandon and I have come to realize that most of our good friends do not have children, and so we are missing a particular aspect in our friendship that comes with being parents. We are in different areas of our lives- which doesn't mean we cannot be great friends- but it does mean that they will not fully understand certain things.

I have been praying that God would lead us into friendships with couples (with children) who are like minded, and I felt like He answered that prayer on Friday. There are so few people who have the same views we do (not just one or two here and there, but as a whole), and it is so comforting and... such a relief... to know that there are other families out there striving for the things we strive for and seeking to live as we do. We even have similar interests! We had such a wonderful time talking, that we didn't leave until it was almost midnight, which made it difficult to wake up in the morning to leave for Louisiana!

While in Louisiana, we were able to visit with more of our friends with children. My friend Christy is absolutely delightful and relateable... and I finally got to meet her newest addition, a little girl (which caused my baby fever to raise a few more degrees). We also got to spend time with my in-laws and the kids enjoyed playing with their cousin, Hunter.

Church was absolutely wonderful. Brandon and I definitely felt like this is where God wanted us to be, but it didn't click until recently that this was to be our "home church" until one of the pastors at our church here in Texas mentioned the first little bit I mentioned (about thinking nothing strange about moving across the country for a career, but gawking at the idea of moving to attend a godly-driven church). Many people drive long distances to attend the church we attend here in Texas. It is common for many of the members to drive over an hour for the services.

God really impressed upon my heart that He still wanted us at the church we made our "home" in Louisiana. Brandon and I thought about it often- missed the church and wished we were closer (or that they were here), but it didn't occur to us to make the drive on weekends to be there until later. I think God definitely used that time in between to teach us somethings and bring us to a church in our area where we could visit a couple times a month and build some friendships with those in our area.

I am constantly amazed by the plans of God- how He weaves things together and makes such intricate art out of our lives. Over the last year, God has really been pressing into me the lesson of His timing. We like to believe we are in control of our lives, and while it is true that we do have some control (over our choices, reactions, etc), ultimately, whether we are believers or not, whether we submit to God or not, whether we like it or not.... our lives are in God's control.

As Brandon and I have hoped and prayed for another child and have seen the months pass without conception, this has really hit home. Our first child came quite unexpectedly, and the following two entered just when we planned. It never occurred to me that I wouldn't be able to conceive right when I wanted to. After all, everyone had always joked I was fertile myrtle, laughed that all my husband had to do was wink my way and we were with child again. But that's not how it works, is it? Even those who seem quite fertile, who have youthful, healthy, working reproductive systems can't MAKE themselves have a baby. Ultimately, it is in God's hands, isn't it? He opens and closes the womb.

Sunday, Brother Jerry worded it quite well in his sermond. "Did it ever occur to you that nothing ever occurs to God?"

And it's true- God sees all and knows all. He has plans for our lives beyond what we can imagine, and we have to trust in Him to lead us, to lay out the path before us. We also need to be willing to take action when we tells us to, to go where He leads, and to always be praying about the choices and options before us.

I cannot control those around me. I have enough work just trying to control myself, and that is what I really need to work on. I know that God has chosen not to give us another child at this moment because He has things He desires me to work on, and I cannot receive the blessing until I have followed through in obedience.

I feel like God has some things He wants me to "work out" in our home, in our parenting, etc before he adds another to our "crew", and while I have to agree, it's not easy to "hear".

I know some think it is selfish to desire more children when we already have three beautiful little darlings. Of course, many of these people are the same sort that strive for more money and more stuff and bigger houses without seeing their own selfish motives for such.

I honestly thought that two would be enough, but God has revealed to Brandon and I what a blessing children are, and it seems today's culture is too worried about population, finances, and whatnot to take joy in the most precious things.

Children are the only thing that we can "make" that last forever. Our houses, our bank accounts, our material possessions will come to an end- but God has offered everlasting life- a beautiful, glorious, everlasting kingdom. Sometimes I lose sight of this. Have you?


Arlene said...

My daughter had the same issue when she went to Orlando to go to college. All the churches near the college campus just have watered down messages to attract the students, but she desired something that would fill her spiritually. She doesn't have a car so she can't drive down every week, but thank the Lord she's found a second church home in a nearby town. I too believe God puts us where we are for a reason. He knows better than I do, that's for sure! Blessings.

Nina said...

Yes, I often do.
I'm very lucky that I found the church I have :)

Full of Heart said...

A lot of what you mentioned are things I'm struggling with too, but just in slightly different ways. Waiting for and accepting God's timing as different than ours is a harder task than I'd ever have imagined it to be!
Thank you for the encouragement!

Momofsix said...

I have come to realize that God's timing is perfect. I often want Him to work when I think he should, but he is truly the giver of all things, and the taker as well.

Patience is something learned. It is a struggle and a stretch for all of us to learn Patience- but the gift is we learn who is truly in control! What a relief that is that we are not. Imagine the mess I would make!!! ;-)

Blessings to you Sweet Mandy. What a blessing it is that you are learning all this as a young mother. I was much older and learning these lessons.
(we are also in Houston)

Stacie, A Firefighter's Wife said...

You are not being selfish for wanting more children! That is a lie from Satan!

Children are a blessing from the Lord. You are right, those kind of statements come from people who are focused on worldly things not eternal thibngs.

Every child that I bring into the world has the potential to serve the Lord and change the world somehow.

I think it is incredibly UNSELFISH to bring children into the world. The more children I have the greater sacrifice I make. My time, my body, my energy ect. I know I was more selfish when I just wanted two. The Lord had to grab my heart and speak His truth for a good few years before I surrendered my heart to His plan.

Now that I am struggling with hip problems, I am thinking that number six will be the last biological child. It is a sad thought to think my child-bearing years are over. But I can be content with that if that is the direction God is leading me.

My sis has had two children and struggles with infertility. Watching her struggle has given me a whole new perspective on contentment. She would love to have four. But it truly is up to God.

Thank you for your thoughts on church and children.

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Jennifer said...

Am curious to know what church you attend here in Houston? Email me directly if you'd like: jsegulja@gmail.com. We live in NW Houston and after being in our church for about 4 years, suddenly feel very unsettled, so I'd be curious to get some suggestions and information from you, if you choose to share :)

Areté Praxis said...

Hi Mandy, if you get a few minutes, I highly recommend checking out this podcast and letting me know what you think. I'd love to hear your feedback on it. Big thanks!

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